2021 Ford F-150 simplifies towing with onboard scales that measure payload and tongue weight

2021 Ford F-150 simplifies towing with onboard scales that measure payload and tongue weight

04/28/2021

Ford is doing to towing what the automatic transmission did to the manual: Make it easy enough for anyone to operate. Three new features announced Wednesday on the 2021 Ford F-150 aim to reduce towing guesswork.

One will measure payload; the second measures tongue weight; and the third is the very useful adaptive damping, which becomes an option on the F-150 for the first time.

Onboard Scales that estimate payload on the 2021 Ford F-150 and a Smart Hitch feature that measures tongue weight represent the latest advancement in simplifying the towing experience. Capable of towing up to 14,000 pounds, Ford’s bestseller can carry between 1,765 and 3,325 pounds, depending on drivetrain and cab configuration. It’s hard to know with any certainty just how much you’re hauling in the bed, and with passengers prone to underestimating their weight, the Onboard Scales will add some certainty, displaying the approximate weight in the touchscreen, on the FordPass app, or in graphics within the pickup truck’s taillights.

2021 Ford F-150 tow technology

This last part is interesting. Ford says “smart taillamps operate like the battery charge indicator on a mobile phone.” On the C-clamp shape of the taillight, there are four bars in the middle of the housing, and on the side nearest the tailgate. If the top fourth light illuminates, then the truck is nearing its max payload. If it exceeds it, the top light blinks and you may need to remove one of those kegs from the bed. The scale can be zeroed out on the touchscreen to just measure what’s in the bed. 

The Smart Hitch feature is an extension of the payload measurement, but for towing capacity. It’s not easy to determine how much force the trailer tongue exerts on the hitch, which is why the estimated rule of thumb for tongue weight is 10-15% of the gross trailer weight—the weight of the trailer plus whatever is on the trailer.

For instance, if you’re towing a 2,000 pound boat, and the trailer weighs another 1,000 pounds, the tongue weight would be 10-15% of that combined 3,000 pounds. Say you’re conservative and don’t want to tax your transmission, so you estimate 15% of tongue weight on the 3,000 pounds you’re towing, then the tongue weight adds 450 pounds. It’s significant. Especially if you have a crossover SUV rated to tow 3,500 pounds and you’re towing 3,450 pounds.

2021 Ford F-150 tow technology

The Smart Hitch calculates tongue weight to take the guessing out of the equation. Ford says it “provides guidance on weight distribution of hitch overloading” on the same three sources as Onboard Scales, via the touchscreen, app, or taillights.

The last feature rolled out on the 2021 Ford F-150 comes from the luxury field of full-size SUVs, so expect the 2022 Ford Expedition to come with available adaptive damping. On the F-150, electronic sensors provide multiple inputs to a computer to adjust valves in the shocks to firm up the ride when hitting a pothole, for instance, or softening it for comfier cruising. In Tow/Haul mode, the damping smooths out the truck and trailer responses to road conditions, and provides more linear steering, Ford says.

The three features can be ordered in early June, but Ford didn’t specify a price. Onboard Scales and Smart Hitch come bundled together. 

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